A guest post from Bruce Gulland (@BruceGulland) of Reach Beyond (@ReachBeyondUK).
You may recall Ali Burnett's thought-provoking piece Beyond the Bunny just before Easter, about using radio advertising to help get a Christian message across. And you may remember that lovely rabbit pic!
Sticking with the theme of getting something of the good news onto commercial radio, here's some other news of faith-based programming that made it onto the airwaves this Easter, between the ads for carpet sales and cars.
It's not the place you'd first expect to hear material exploring the deeper side of life. You’re more likely to think first of one of the (excellent!) items or programmes on BBC stations – 'Thought for the Day', 'Good Morning Sunday', and so on. But on commercial radio, with its diet of mainstream pop, low-brow chat, and ubiquitous ads? How often do you hear a programme of any sort dealing with faith there?
Well on Easter Sunday morning, on at least 17 commercial stations around the country, you could hear something about Christ and the resurrection. Making quality audio for this area of the media is what we seek to do at Bradford-based Whistling Frog Productions, the UK radio arm of the international media and healthcare mission Reach Beyond.
We produced a short feature called Easter Makeover looking at makeover TV and deeper transformation. We also made Easter Expectations, a set of humorous monologue spots tackling different views of life after death. The first aired on the UKRD network of 16 stations, and the second on Pulse 1 in West Yorkshire. Both feature Mark Roques, who is Director of RealityBites, and adept at relating faith to pop culture.
For years now, with its eye on the bottom line and no obligation to play anything faith-related, mainstream commercial radio has tended to steer well clear. But opportunities do exist – often dependent on the openness of a station or network manager to broadcast such material – and developing a good relationship there. And with significant audiences, particularly in ages and sections of society that may not tune in so much to BBC stations, it’s well worth seizing these opportunities.
A radically different style of radio is called for though. The format is fast-paced, topical and music-driven, so productions work well that combine catchy music and pacy speech or dialogue. It really is a far cry from Thought for the Day. It's also an exciting challenge: creating such a mix that also encourages reflection about God, Jesus and faith in our sceptical society.